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Transition Towers - having an office or not

Number: 
1
Sustainable Bungay’s ‘office’ is the kitchen table (Photo - Charlotte Du Cann)

Challenge

Would your initiative benefit from having a dedicated workspace?

Description

Some of the longest-established Transition initiatives have an office space, but most don’t. The principal obstacles are rental cost and staff (heat, light, teabags, paper and so on also matter, but are relatively minor). It is a commitment not to be taken on lightly...

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Solution

A kitchen table or the corner of a local cafe can be all a Transition initiative needs, but if you do decide you need something more formal, make it serve many functions, such as for working, holding meetings, having social events, or hosting a cafe, a library or a drop-in centre for advice on energy efficiency and other aspects of Transition.

Full description

Some of the longest-established Transition initiatives have an office space, but most don’t. The principal obstacles are rental cost and staff (heat, light, teabags, paper and so on also matter, but are relatively minor). It is a commitment not to be taken on lightly.
In drafting this ingredient, I asked via a post on Transition Culture for people’s views. Transition Town Kingston said they don’t want or need an office. They hold their events in local venues and their meetings in members’ homes, and stay in regular contact via email and Twitter.

This idea of remaining light and nimble was picked up on by Bart Anderson at Transition Palo Alto in the US. He argued that for groups such as his, meeting in people’s homes is an advantage, and that Transition should do what corporations are increasingly thinking – encouraging more people to work from home – to create less bureaucracy. Palo Alto wants to postpone having an office for as long as possible.

Trawsnewid Llandrindon Transition has taken a similar decision, holding their meetings in local cafes. Transition San Fernando Valley in the US has a ‘market circle’, which invites people to meet at the regular local farmers’ market. If three or more people turn up, that’s a meeting. If not, they do their shopping and go home. Transition Los Angeles report that they do not need office space; rather they make sure their website has a clear chain of meeting opportunities on its calendar. For some initiatives, however, an office becomes essential to its growth, and funding needs to be found.

Transition Town Totnes’s office space, once described by the Sunday Telegraph as a “rickety set of rooms”, also includes a meeting room, which is used by most of the working groups and for some smaller events. The office is open for people to drop in at certain times. It does, however, need one very busy paid part-time worker to sustain it. It is partly funded by ensuring that funding bids include a percentage for ‘central services’ (although not all funders will allow this) and also by supporters who donate monthly. It also enables many volunteers to ‘hot desk’.

Finding affordable office space can be difficult, but a local Hub (if you have one) can offer affordable space and networking with other local initiatives. The Empty Shops Network encourages people to make temporary and creative use of empty shops, which could be a great way of engaging people visibly.
 

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